Making E-commerce Magical

Earl Newsome, CIO, Praxair, Inc.
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Earl Newsome, CIO, Praxair, Inc.

Earl Newsome, CIO, Praxair, Inc.

At Praxair, our digital strategy rests on four pillars: Operations – ensuring maximum uptime, Supply Chain – especially logistics, Business processes within the workplace and external eco-systems with a focus on our customer’s experience. From a digital perspective, we are an operating company and primarily focus on two of those pillars – Operations and Supply Chain.

Rapidly Growing Trends in the E-Commerce Landscape

We want to take advantage of the external technology ecosystem to help us communicate better with our customers and suppliers. Millions of devices are currently in use supporting e-commerce. We have come up with a new word to describe this digital internet-commerce – “i-commerce.” The next query that arises is how we can collaborate more effectively with our suppliers and customers across different domains. We start by navigating the journey either a supplier or a customer takes when interacting with our company. I think as you map those journeys out, you look for those moments of truth where organizations can start to apply some of these next-generation collaboration or human-computer interface capabilities to make that journey easier and more pleasant.

One trend is electronic notification of milestones during the product delivery cycle giving customers access to accurate location information. Another is the use of voice technology, which is going to be the “new web access method.” According to experts, 70 percent of transactions in the next two years will be operationalized using voice. This novel technology combined with machine learning and cognitive automation will lead the next generation for computer interface.

  We have to get away from the past as, in the e-commerce world, services are going to be hyper-personalized to maximize the end-user experience  

The next phase of human-computer interface is going to be multifaceted, taking advantage of all of the senses. When we know how people interact with our systems, we begin to understand how to improve the landscape with more neutrality both in language – and physical ability.

When we interact with businesses either from the supplier or customer perspective along their journey, the more the chances we will have to tailor their experiences. Also, globally, people will want to create unique and innovative experiences. You’re going to see how the next generation of human-computer interface manifests itself and improve, achieving a truly neutral landscape for people to order the products or services that they need.

Challenges Faced in the E-Commerce Landscape

The biggest challenge is tracking the arrival of the goods or service. For instance, when we used to order a hard wired cable service, the company would tell you the day when they will be coming at a certain time or window, but we had no option to track their arrival. Now, you can track your customer service person and know when they’re going to show up at your house to do the service that you need. You’re getting a precise time when you’re actually going to get what you have ordered.

One of the phenomena that occur is this notion of experience transference. People are starting to expect similar experiences across similar circumstances, expectations which are driven by the pervasiveness of technology. And we don’t currently have equal experience across all circumstances, but I think we’re starting to see customers demand that. Ordering by just talking to your voice app, tracking it on your watch, and checking when it arrives makes the whole process of purchasing easier and lowers the amount of time being invested so that you can focus on more critical work.

This individual experience transference creates those expectations both for customers and suppliers. Success in meeting those expectations will depend on our ability to create similar experiences in the consumer world as in the industrial world.

Coping up with Growing Needs of the Customers

Our ability to meet customer experience expectations needs to grow faster. Undoubtedly, we’re playing a catch-up game on the experience level. Companies now need to have a multidisciplinary approach to deal with this experience transference. Arthur C. Clarke said, “Advanced technology should be indistinguishable from magic.”In line with that, when we create these new experiences, we need to create them using a multidisciplinary approach to create the new experiences. Software engineers need an understanding of social anthropology to understand people’s expectations in the workplace and to start to craft those new world experiences. It is a paradigm shift for us to start to think about our customers and suppliers not as companies but as people and as you begin to make that transition in the industrial landscape, you’ll start to think of how to interact with them on a personal level.

Future of E-Commerce Landscape

There are huge opportunities to be explored in collaboration and digital commerce globally. We have to get away from the past as, in the e-commerce world; services are going to be hyper-personalized to maximize the end-user experience. The world of e-commerce has a personalization philosophy of its own: it will recognize you today the way you want it to behave. It will do so by learning from your behaviors, allowing it to predict what you want to do, in part based on what you ordered in the past and so on. In your next interaction with an e-commerce engine, it will recognize your phone number and say “Hi, I’m speaking to John; last time, you placed an order – for bottles about three weeks ago, would you like me to replace that order?” This helps in boosting cross-selling opportunities, by recognizing the voice pattern of the person – including whether it’s a real person that wants to buy the product at that moment.

Additionally, there will be some facial expression recognition features when video chatting, and there will be voice analysis to help the e-commerce engine determine whether or not the user is in the mood to buy or conversely if the seller is likely to close the deal with the user in their particular mood. Thus, e-commerce is going to be hyper-personalized to customer’s habits to help drive sales. In the next 18 to 24 months, we’re going to see more introduction of AI and human-computer interface into e-commerce platforms. This will occur both across multichannel and with multi-access.

Piece of Advice

You have to break traditional barriers and bring in additional disciplines into your organization either through direct or indirect means to help your team look at the whole situation. We have to bring in different set of skills and viewpoints, to really start to prepare for the next wave of i-commerce. Only with this inclusive approach will we think of things that we wouldn’t have thought of, allowing us to maximize that experience on the journey taken by our customers and suppliers.

With this fresh perspective, our teams will give users exactly what they need, maximizing their experience at an individual level and mitigating any issues along their journey. My goal is to ensure that advanced technology such as e-commerce or i-commerce should deliver a truly magical experience to all our users. Everyone loves magic.

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